About 40 dream researchers have published a letter warning the public that companies control their dreams through commercials. The technology called targeted dream incubation (TDI), uses specific auditory and visual stimuli, such as a movie, to induce specific images and sounds in the brain that people then see in their dreams.
Our dreams can't become just another playground for corporate advertisers, the letter reads, urging the US Federal Trade Commission to reconsider its policies banning subliminal ads to include ads that creep into your sleep, too. The potential for misuse of these technologies is obviously inauspicious.
However, other experts have responded to the message that implanted dreams will not have the same impact on consumers as traditional advertising does and said that there are already laws to protect people from deceptive advertising.
The researcher's concerns largely relate to Coorslite's January trial, which aimed to show commercials to sports fans in their sleep after the Super Bowl.
He wrote in the letter, such interventions clearly influence the choices our sleeping and dreaming brain makes in how we interpret events from our day, how we use memories of these events to plan our future, and bias our brain's decisions toward any information presented during sleep.
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a professor at Harvard University, helped Coors create her own TDI and when she got the message, she shared her position on the project.
In the blog post, Barrett said, I fully agree with the enthusiastically expressed basic premise of that letter: the absolute moral disapproval of 'negative and unconscious advertising overnight, with or without our permission that the letter predicts will follow these few dream-related advertisements. However, I believe that the call for 'urgently needed new safeguard policies' reflects a lack of familiarity with existing laws that prevent deceptive advertising.
In terms of policies, she referred to Section 5 of the US Federal Trade Commission Act which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce. This includes advertising that the consumer perceives as advertising, specifically advertising that appears as part of a dream. Barrett also told Science Magazine that she did not view TDI Coors as a real experiment.
She explained that terms in the Kors propaganda and stimulus film instructions such as 'targeted dream incubation and dream implantation had oversights from science fiction and/or military mind control experiments. I have not been successful in persuading them to abandon these terms, and I am disappointed to see them echo a message from those familiar with the standard terminology.
Barrett also believes that such marketing tactics will have little effect on sleepy consumers.
She said, of course, you can play ads to someone while they are sleeping, but there is very little evidence of how much of an impact they have.
Although Barrett says current technology is not likely to make people want to buy items as soon as they wake up, the dream researchers involved suggest it could happen in the future. The potential for misuse of these technologies is obviously ominous, they wrote in the letter.
Announcing the TDI is not a fun gimmick, but a slippery slope with real consequences. Planting dreams in people's minds for the purpose of selling products, not to mention addictive substances, raises important ethical questions.